Dressing for Covid
When Supporting an Older Loved One, Dressing is Often Overlooked; 7 Tips from a South Carolina Company That Can Help Family and Caregivers
Roughly 30 million people throughout the United States have trouble dressing themselves
GREENVILLE — The COVID-19 pandemic has created a challenging set of circumstances for older relatives, especially if they are residents of assisted living or nursing homes in lockdown.
For those that struggle with walking long distances or getting in and out of cars, COVID may have reduced the frequency of these challenges. But for those that struggle with tasks like dressing, help may be more limited, placing extra burden on completing a task most of us do without issue every day.
With the holiday season keeping many apart, it can be frustrating for families to not be able to help. For others, COVID risks have placed them into the role of a primary caregiver where helping someone dress is new, and often a struggle. With this in mind, a South Carolina company is offering guidance for those families caring for loved ones that find dressing a challenge —whether close or far away.
According to a 2018 National Health Interview Survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, roughly 30 million U.S. adults have limits or issues with their day to day function that can make dressing a challenge.  This leads to choices and tradeoffs in clothing decisions that can abandon a treasured look or style in favor of convenience —whether for the wearer or, very often, for the caregiver.
To help, Authored Apparel —a Greenville, South Carolina, company has created a line of fashionable clothing with unique design technology that helps people with dressing issues to, once again, dress themselves. To help families understand and support the needs of their loved ones this holiday season, Brenda Wilton, Authored’s founder and CEO, offers the following tips.
"With the pandemic keeping families apart and often hundreds or thousands of miles away from each other, we need to be able to develop new ways to keep our loved ones safe and comfortable," said Wilton,. "Ensuring they can dress independently not only helps keep them safe, but helps their caregivers, as well. For adults that struggle with dressing, Authored Apparel provides a welcome solution that reduces the need for hands-on help. But if hands-on help is needed, here are some tips for supporting your older loved ones."
Tips for Families and Caregivers
- Recognize that, with COVID-19 placing close contact to a minimum, support should have the goal of allowing a loved one to dress as independently as possible. Very often, individuals and their caregivers may choose clothing that is oversized because it's easier to put on. But oversized clothing can increase the risk of falls or injuries. Clothing that is "stretchable" when putting on, but then provides a snug fit is preferable.
- Devices to assist with dressing are widely available and often inexpensive. Dressing sticks and devices to aid with buttons, socks and shoes are just a few options that you can choose.
- If you are assisting someone with dressing, make sure you understand what they can do for themselves and what they can’t. The ability to dress independently —even in part —provides valuable mental health benefits. Help that is seen as too "parental" can be harmful in this regard.
- If you are helping someone dress, make sure to manipulate the clothing not the person. A top cause of caregiver injury is stooping and straining to help someone, especially if that someone weighs more than the caregiver. To reduce the risk of caregiver injury: Stretch clothing before placing it on your loved one. Coach them to move at the appropriate time to aid you.
- If you are caring for a loved one with dementia consider that, for those whose condition is more advanced, skin can become more sensitive. Soft, non abrasive fabrics are good choices.
- Conversation tips: Make sure you ask some of the following questions when speaking with isolated, elderly family members:
- "Do you find it difficult to get dressed? What’s the hardest part?
- "Are there any articles of clothing you are no longer wearing due to dressing difficulties?"
- "On a scale of 1 to 10, how comfortable are you in your clothes on an average day?"
- "How often are you able to change your clothes?"
Wilton offers this final tip, "Let them know how good they look! Every day we get up and, for one more day, choose how we will dress. If your ability to dress is limited by your age or your function, your choices diminish, or are often made for you. That’s one of the big reasons I started Authored because I believe that no matter your age or ability, everyone deserves clothing that is stylish, well made and makes them feel great!.”
About Authored Apparel:
Authored Apparel was part of the Class of 2020 of the selective Techstars Future of Longevity Accelerator, which concluded earlier this month. The Techstars Accelerator selected 10 companies focused on innovative and creative caregiving solutions improving the lives of older adults and their caregivers. Techstars Future of Longevity Accelerator was held in partnership with Pivotal Ventures, an investment and incubation company created by Melinda Gates to advance social progress in the United States.
Authored Apparel designs clothes with discreet openings to resolve dressing challenges and promote dignity and independence for wearers and safety for caregivers. Authored's adaptive apparel line of classic clothing is designed for those experiencing physical challenges with dressing.